We last left the players two weeks ago, after the disastrous Battle of the White Hall Plains. Together with Prince Asolf and many of his War Band, the hero Band (PCs) fled to the salt fens, where the heavy Imperial hoplites could not follow.
This session started after a two week gap in both real and game time. The characters had been following their last desire: raiding the coast in their fishing boat looking for food, supplies, and other vessels, specifically a sea-worthy one.
We began in Prince Asolf's camp.
All of the group were suffering minor penalties from exposure and malnutrition, and the group were a little upset to discover that healing spells don't cancel the effects of starvation and dehydration, they just "cover them up" for a while.
As the refugees in Prince Asolf's makeshift camp continued to drift in, straining an already overloaded supply problem a new problem presented itself. The Empire seemed willing to send almost endless groups of peltasts, the Imperial skirmishers, into the salt fens after the growing warband. The warband was killing many, but every death in the warband was irreplacable.
Prince Asolf suggested that the warband could hold out for a week, but no more, at which time they would have no choice but to take the collection of small vessels and take their chances in White Hall, which was beseiged, isolated, and ruled by a fractious mob of survivors.
The group did what it could in the swamp, but they were beginning to despair. Until an idea came to them. A number of game weeks ago they had masqueraded as the Dal Riada, the Black Shield raiders from the distant Green Isles. The Dal Riada would have boats!
Thagjal, the woman Oli found wounded and near death in the swamp, who guided them the the boat her husband and she had hidden, has proved to be an able sailor. She claims to have sailed to the Green Isles with her husband for trade in years past. She thinks she can find them, but is unsure whether the fishing boat will make a winter voyage across the sea of storms.
Desperation drives their hands, and the heroband prepare for the voyage. Thorvald Skallagrimmson delivers a stirring prayer to the god of winds and storms for safe passage, but I'd butcher it if I tried to type what I'd remember. Essentially, it was a deal. Although the gods love harsh tests, allow his loyal servants to cross the seas quickly and safely and his servants will gleefully accept many harsh tests in the future.
The crossing has a couple tight minutes, but the sturdy vessel that has become the group's second home grinds safely onto a stretch of pebble beach on the Green Isles. The heroband get their bearings and find a place to whole up while Ragnar ver Magnussun, the Elf-blooded Runethane, changes to raven form and scouts around. Soon he has discovered a large town with a sheltered harbour and a number of vessels.
Sneaking across populated country is a skill the group has become accustomed to while dodging Imperial patrols. The Green Islanders seem much less vigilant, and the group makes it to the town undiscovered.
After much discussion they decide, for once, to try a none-combative approach, and try to walk through the town's wooden gates. Although they are questioned briefly the Green Islanders both raid and trade with the mainland, and as the heroband is not here in numbers to successfully raid, they are allowed through.
Some of the group go to buy supplies. Several barrels of salted fish and casks of small beer will go a long way to chase away the pangs of hunger for our heroes and for Prince Asolf's warband.
The harbour contains six vessels. Although not identical to our heroband's ships , the Green Islanders two warship are basically drakkar (viking longships), their four other sea vessels are basically the fatter, slower knorr. One drakkar and one knarr of the are half-crewed and rest in the middle of the harbour. The rest of the vessels are minimally crewed and are tied to massive wooden poles some 8 to 10' from shore at high tide.
Judging by various clues the group figure the two vessels in mid-harbour are from different "clans." Still, daunted by their larger crews the heroband decides to seize the drakkar near the shore, crewed by three men.
Meanwhile the town is a flurry of activity. Coloured shields are being painted or exchanged for black shields. The Dal Riada will sail out on the coming high tide!
Ragnar casts Invisibility and then Long Door on Egil Skallagrimmson and Ole, infiltrating them onto the drakkar. The crew notice the shift in weight, but can't see anything, so return to their labours. The rest of the heroband and Thagjal load a small boat they hire for a couple copper coins, and row alongside the drakkar.
Ragnar delivers a broken-language ultimatum. Abandon ship or die. The crew members look incredulously at the four of them on their little boat, and laughing, tells them to shove off.
Then Ole/Bill, normally such a conscientious player, impales the crewman from behind, killing him with a vicious spear thrust.
As always when our group enters combat, total chaos ensues. Ragnar & Thorvald begin tossing supplies on board, Ole attacks the second crewman, Grimmnar the dark priest boards and tries to close with the third crewman, Egil waits a moment, trying to use his invisibility for a critical moment. Thagjal (NPC) boards and begins to haul on the yard to hoist the sail, but she'll need help to tow the heavy beam up to the crosstree.
The second crewman strikes at Ole and has him reeling, while the third crewman shouts to shore and picks up his shield. Then he cast's Ice Storm (Elemental Ball: Water) on the small boat, catching Ragnar & Thorvald, the two "real" spell-casters unprepared! They are hurt badly.
In a few moments warrior from shore have waded into the depths and boarded the boat as Ole finished off the second crewman. Egil adds his lethal talents alongside Ole's in the prow, hemming the Black Shields in and striking one low as he emerged from Invisibility.
In the stern Grimmnar fumbles and is stunned. The sea priest casts another Ice Storm then strikes Grimmnar, but it isn't a telling blow. Soon Grimmnar is pressing him back, shattering the body of the sea priest with his strange bone club.
Finally, both sorely injured and frostbitten Ragnar and Thorvald manage to tumble into the drakkar. Ragnar casts Stun Cloud on a closing row-boat, and it's crew cease to be a concern.
Thorvald manages to cast a Tempest on a second boat, but is having trouble casting spells with his many injuries. Ole falls before an experienced Raider. Thorvald manages to heal him, but the raider leaps over Ole's form and strikes down Thorvald. Ragnar's Lightning blasts and the aid of Grimmnar begins to win the day in the bloody prow. Egil strikes down another Green Islander and then retires to aid Thagjal, who has been wounded by javelin and sling fire from the neighbouring knarr, with the sails.
The spell casters are exhausted or down, Ole, Egil, Grimmnar and Thagjal are wounded. Yet finally the sails are up, the ropes cut, and the drakkar begins to shudder and back-water. For a moment the cruel GM in me thought about a change in wind direction, trapping them along a lee shore. But the fun wasn't over yet, and the drakkar in the harbour looked ready for action. The group was feeling drained and doomed. Thagjal grabs the steering oar and with a mighty effort from her small frame manages to "gain steerage way." The ship yaws and cants to starboard as the prow swings lazily towards harbour. She catches a lethal javelin cast in her chest for her troubles. Egil manages to loose the appropriate ropes and catch the wind as Grimmnar ignores the bleeding form of thorvald and makes his way astern, where despite several penalties (and aided by a fate point) he saves Thagdal before her life can ebb out.
As the stolen drakkar lazily drifts less than a stone's throw from the longship anchored in mid harbour the group prepares for what will probably be a terminal rain of missiles. Instead they are greated by roars, cheering, and the slamming of swords on shield bosses. They are being saluted for their audacity. The raider chief stands on his ship's gunnels and shouts: I will give you until sunset, and then I come for your ship!
Behind them knorrs are readied for more immediate pursuit, as Grimmnar manages to exhaust the last of his magics healing himself and stabilizing Thorvald, who remains unconcious.
A tense stern chase into a head-wind follows, as the slower knorrs are crewed by many experienced sailors, while the drakkar has only Egil and Thagjal with knowledge of the many tasks required to tack back and forth across the wind. Failing a couple rolls the players are forced to "wear ship" (instead of tacking across the face of the wind turning about 270 degrees or so to avoid the treacherous "wind in your face" effect on a sailing vessel). With the sun moments from setting they begin to despair as the closest knorr enters javelin range when an icy north wind blows, directly abeam. Sails filled by the frigid wind the drakkar is blown to safety as night falls.
Other than the bailing, the rest of the voyage is incedent free. At the salt fens they are greeted by the handful of fishing vessels they raided for: Prince Asolf and the last two-dozen refugees, escaping the final push of the peltasts.
The heroband sets course for Ivinia, the homeland of Prince Asolf, leaving White Hall and the Empire behind.